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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Romney senior foreign policy advisor, Robert C. O’Brien

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HH: As promised, geeking out this hour, a foreign policy hour, because you people actually care about this stuff as you should. Mostly, we talk about unemployment, we talk about all the domestic stuff, we talk about the sliming from Chicago. But in the background are the world peace issues, the issues of war, the issue of what are we going to do around the globe. And joining me to talk about the stakes in 2012 is a senior Mitt Romney advisor. Robert C. O’Brien is the managing partner of Arent Fox, the law firm in Los Angeles, former U.S. alternative representative to the United Nations. He’s part of the Romney foreign policy team. Robert O’Brien, welcome, it’s great to have you. Pull that microphone up close.

RO: Wonderful to be here with you, Hugh. Thanks for having me.

HH: Yeah, we brought you deep into the underground bunker of the Hugh Hewitt Show, so that’s terrific. Did you ever go to, like, Cheney’s undisclosed location?

RO: I was never there, but I can now say I’ve been in your undisclosed location.

HH: Robert, give people a little background. You’ve been doing foreign policy forever, and as a result, people will understand a little bit. What does the U.S. alternative delegate at the U.N. do?

RO: Sure, the U.S. has five presidential appointments to the U.N. Three alternate representatives, and then the two ambassadors. And basically, we’re there to represent the American people to the rest of the world. So we’re dealing with resolutions, we’re dealing with negotiating conventions and treaties. When I was there, I worked on the convention on terrorism, which was, unfortunately, has been something we’ve been working on for about 40 years. We can’t seem to get over the objections of some of the more reticent countries like Syria, and at that time, Libya and others that wouldn’t agree to a definition of what terrorism was. We give speeches at the general assembly, laying out the U.S. position on various foreign policy issues.

HH: And how did you end up doing this?

RO: You know, the President asked, and I saluted and said yes.

HH: President Bush?

RO: President George W. Bush.

HH: But you must have had foreign policy in your blood then.

RO: You know, I’d been fortunate. When I was younger, I was in the Army Reserve as a JAG officer. And I also spent two years, from ’96-’98, working as a lawyer for the U.N. Security Council in Geneva on a commission that was deciding claims against Iraq arising out of Gulf I.

HH: And so you had international law down, and you’ve kept that up. Your practice for Arent Fox, what kind of practice do you do now?

RO: Business litigation, primarily, and in California, I’m also fortunate enough to do some international work, international arbitration and some international business transactions.

HH: And you hang out with my pal, Lowell Brown, who is a hospital lawyer.

RO: Yeah, he’s a hospital lawyer and a great partner.

HH: He is a great partner. Now Robert C. O’Brien, the Romney foreign policy team, it’s not much in the news. Jim Talent has been on, you’ve been on, that’s about it. How big is it? Who is on it? What’s it doing right now?

RO: You know, there are a large number of advisors, and that’s one of the great things about the campaign, is the number of people that have really flocked to the Governor, high end folks like General Michael Hayden, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Secretary Michael Chertoff, who ran Homeland Security, another Arent Fox partner of mine, Ambassador Pierre Prosper, who was our U.S. war crimes advisor, Chris Burnham, who was the undersecretary general at the U.N., and prior to that, an official in the State Department for President Bush. So just a wide range of top talent and very smart guys.

HH: And how interested is Governor Romney in this part of the campaign? A lot of people like Nixon, all they want to do is do foreign policy. Other presidents don’t run for office, you know, George W. Bush, though he became a war president, did not run for office on foreign policy. What’s the mix at Romney central in Boston?

RO: Well, the Governor’s very concerned about these issues. This campaign, of course, is on the economy, because we can’t have a robust national defense, we can’t be the leader of the world with an economy that is in the tank. I mean, we’ve had 40 straight months of unemployment over 8.1%. I think it’s at 8.3% now. The GDP keeps getting revised lower. People are hurting. There are 23-24 millions that are either out of work, unemployed, underemployed. With that sort of an economic record, we can’t be the robust power around the world that we’ve like to be. And so I think the Governor wants to get that fixed. I think that’s what the American people are focused on for this election. Having said that, Mitt’s book, the Governor’s book, was No Apologies: The Case For American Greatness. He does not believe in apologizing for the United States of America to anyone, domestically or overseas. He understands American exceptionalism, and he understands that our economic well-being is based on a liberal economic order around the world where we have free trade, we have free travel of ships in the seas, freedom of navigation, where we have a growing number of liberal democracies, where the people are industrious and want to trade with us. So you know, all of that is crucial to our economic well-being, but it’s also crucial to our national security.

HH: Now when people turn to foreign policy, they look at Paul Ryan and they say there’s another domestic policy appointment, the Veep selection. Of course, he gave great speeches on foreign policy. Bret Stephens, deputy editorial page editor, was on last week, wrote up about Paul Ryan and foreign policy. But who’s got the con, actually, back as headquarters as Syria melts down, or as the Middle East gets closer to a confrontation? Who is the Governor asking for advice on a day to day basis?

RO: Well, there are policy advisors within the campaign, and there are some excellent guys, of course. It’s out that Lanhee Chen is the head of policy for the Governor’s campaign. There are other guys like Alex Wong and John Noonan. There are a whole panoply of folks. But Governor Romney has a deep understanding of foreign policy and national security issues. This is a guy throughout his entire life who’s paid attention to what’s happening overseas, who’s well-versed in international diplomacy, not the least of which was from the Olympics. And as difficult as people think it is negotiating with the U.N., dealing with the IOC makes the U.N. look easy. And so the Governor is aware of what’s happening, and takes his own council. Now among his advisors, he turns regularly to folks like Ambassador John Bolton, my former boss, Ambassador Rich Williamson, who’s been an ambassador since he was a young man in the Reagan administration. He’s surrounded by top guys – Cofer Black, the former head of counterterrorism at the CIA. So he’s surrounded by people that he can turn to and get excellent advice at a moment’s notice.

HH: Is it fair to say, as I’ve written, because it’s what I believe, but I’ll ask you, it’s Reagan 2.0 – liberal internationalist order based upon American strength and the projection of American power as peace through strength. Is that fair?

RO: Governor Romney says on a regular basis it’s peace through strength, all right? This is classic Ronald Reagan. And when we think about it, and I was with the Governor not too long ago when he was here in California a couple of weeks back, one of the points that he made is that we are much less likely to be involved in armed conflict, or in an international crisis scenario when we are strong. American strength keeps the strength. American weakness is provocative, and that is something the Governor will say time and again. American weakness invites challenges, and it puts us in a situation where we might have to commit forces. And what many people forget about Ronald Reagan, and I know you worked for President Reagan. I was lucky enough to be an intern at the RNC when President Reagan was running for reelection. Ronald Reagan did not commit our forces overseas, but we did not have the challenges that we’ve faced over the last several years, because folks understood that Ronald Reagan was not going to put up with terrorism, with assaults on American sovereignty, with attacks on our allies. He made that very clear early on with Libya, as you remember.

HH: That’s what I was just going to say. If Mitt Romney found himself in the same situation as Ronald Reagan did vis-à-vis Libya, would you expect the same response?

RO: Absolutely. When…you know, you could see that coming. When Colonel Qaddafi put his line of death across the Gulf of Sidra in Libya, and said that American carriers could not cross into international waters in the Gulf, you knew what Ronald Reagan was going to do. And when he sent those planes up, or when he sent the patrol boats out to challenge our carrier task force, they ended up splashed down pretty quickly. And if I recall correctly, Ronald Reagan did not want to be woken up to be told that a couple of Libyan fighter pilots had been shot down.

HH: That’s right. Now I’ve talked with Talent, I’ve talked with you about military preparedness, and we’ll mostly spend our time this hour going around the world, looking at Syria, looking at China, things like that. But before we go to break in two minutes, the sequestration is crushing the American military. Governor Romney is on record as saying 313 ships in the Navy. Am I right about that? 313?

RO: Look, we’d like to get to 335. The Quadrennial Defense Review, which is a bipartisan review, came back last year, a year and a half ago, and said that to complete the missions, the tasks that have been given by the commander-in-chief, and that’s President Obama, to the U.S. Navy, we have to have 335 ships. The budget was to get to 313, and the Navy was going to try and complete all of their missions with 313. The problem is we’re now at 285, maybe 284, depending on the status of one or two ships that are out there. That’s clearly not what we need. We’re straining our sailors. We’re straining our equipment. We’ve got maintenance problems because we’ve put too much on the shoulders of these American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. We’ve given them too much to do with too little, and that’s not right. Unfortunately, with sequestration, we’re on the path to 265, 250, or even 230 ships. And if that happens, you know, I’m very fearful about our ability to maintain the sea lanes, the communications, and freedom of navigation around the world.

– – – –

HH: Right before we go to that, Robert C. O’Brien, when we went to break, we were talking about Defense cuts and Navy ships. The Marine Corps is scheduled for a massive cut, 20,000 Marines. The Army is supposed to take 100,000 uniforms out of service.

RO: Right.

HH: Other cuts to the Air Force and the Navy, what is Mitt Romney going to campaign on with regards to those cuts?

RO: Well look, we can’t have those cuts. I mean, that’s…I think it’s one of the key issues in this campaign. To take 120,000 soldiers and Marines, who’ve served us diligently over the past, you know, decade in Iraq and Afghanistan, multiple tours, multiple deployments with their families staying behind, and to then take them and muster them out of the service into this economy, where the unemployment rate for our veterans is higher than the national average? I mean, that’s just wrong to do. That breaks faith with those Marines and soldiers, number one. Number two, it’s bad for America. Again, I spoke about this in the last segment, when we’re weak, when our adversaries or potential adversaries believe that we will not be able to deploy the forces necessary to protect America and to protect freedom around the world, that invites aggression. And that’s the last thing we need. When it comes to the Navy and the Air Force, we’re going to have the smallest Navy since the First World War, since before the First World War if the Obama budget cuts go through, and we’re going to have an Air Force in which pilots are flying, many of the pilots are flying planes that aren’t just older than they are, they’re older than their fathers are or were, and that’s just unacceptable. I mean, we have to have a strong, modern and effective American armed services.

HH: Is Governor Romney down to the level of detail, for example, on platforms like the F-35, the F-22 that’s been cancelled, and other of those? Is he spending any time in those weeds?

RO: Let me give you some of the details that he’s already announced. For example, with respect to the soldiers and Marines that this budget would cut, he’s absolutely said we are not going to lose 100,000 folks from the Army, and we’re not going to lose another 20,000 Marines. By the way, those numbers could go even higher with sequestration.

HH: Right, right.

RO: I mean, I’ve heard that it could double, but again, we don’t know what President Obama will do, because he hasn’t given us the details of how he’ll handle sequestration. So that’s number one. The Governor has said we’re not going to lose those troops. Number two, with respect to the Navy, the Governor came out of the speech at the Citadel last year, in which he laid out his vision for national security for the United States, and said we are going to increase the shipbuilding budget from nine ships a year to fifteen ships a year. And by doing so, over time, we’re going to get to that 313 number, and eventually to the 335 number, and have a Navy that gives our sailors an absolute advantage and edge over any potential adversary, and allows them to fulfill the mission that we’ve given them. And we’ve told these sailors this is what the United States needs to do. We need to patrol in these various areas, we need to deter aggression, we need to use some of our cruisers and destroyers for anti-ballistic missile defense. We’ve given them all these duties. And we need to give them the ships necessary for them to be able to fulfill their job. And then finally, with respect to the Air Force, we have got to modernize the Air Force. Mackenzie Eaglen wrote a great piece last week in which she talked about the Air Force…

HH: Heritage Foundation analyst…

RO: Yes, and a top analyst on Defense, and she basically wrote a piece saying the Air Force on the current trend is just going out of business. We’re just slowly putting the Air Force out of business. Now can you imagine the United States without an Air Force? We’ve enjoyed air superiority in every one of our conflicts, you know, at least in my lifetime. Can you imagine going into a conflict without the U.S. Air Force and without air superiority?

HH: Now comparing, if that Romney shipbuilding number was done for eight years, you’d get to 335 from the 285 that we’re at right now. Will that be in time to deter the Chinese aggression in the South China Sea? And let’s start with China, not the trading issues. That’s a different conversation. But their military posture, which as Dr. Kissinger said on this show last year, right about now, they’re leaning forward, far forward, much more aggressively than they’ve ever done before.

RO: It’s really a true change in the Chinese mentality, and in their strategy. I mean, China had always wanted to have what was called a peaceful rise. They didn’t want to get into territorial disputes with their neighbors. But because of their economic growth, and some of that comes from, and I know you don’t want to get into the economics of it, but it comes from their currency manipulation, it comes from the theft of intellectual property, it comes from their cyber war, not only on U.S. Defense contractors for military purposes, but on American companies and Western companies, they’ve been able to generate enough income to build an incredibly impressive military, a military that grows by the day. They don’t have the same personnel cost that we have with our military, so they get more bang for their buck. They get more equipment for their Defense dollars than we do, because we pay our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines much more, and give them more benefits than the Chinese do. They’ve built an incredibly, or they’re building an incredibly robust navy. And now what you’re seeing in the South China Sea, especially over the past couple of weeks, the mainstream press is starting to take note of it, is they’re throwing their weight around. And they’ve basically claimed the entire South China Sea as their own, and they’ve taken very aggressive positions in the East China Sea and the Yellow Sea.

HH: And what does that mean for the average, you know, fellow or lady driving around? Oh, who cares? Why do we care? Let them have the South China Sea. What do you say to them?

RO: Well look, 60% of world trade goes through the South China Sea. And we’ve got to decide. Do we want that to be a Chinese lake in which there is no freedom of navigation, and in which tolls have to be paid, or political homage has to be paid to the Chinese to be able to trade with our allies? The second issue is some of America’s most important allies and trading partners are directly impacted by China’s action. We have Japan, in which…and they’ve administered, and it’s been recognized, the Senkaku Islands, the Chinese have now claimed them in total. And last year, you saw the standoff in which “fishing trawlers”, but they’re really reinforced kind of paramilitary boats that the Chinese send out to disputed waters, actually rammed Japanese Coast Guard vessels, patrol vessels. In the South China Sea, you have countries like Brunei and the Philippines and Vietnam that have all claimed a right to have access to oil off their shore, to fishing stocks off their shore. But basically, the Chinese have taken the position we’re the biggest guy on the block, and we said we want it all…

HH: Has Obama blinked there? Has the President blinked?

RO: I think if you’re the Chinese and you’ve watched what’s happened, with the declining numbers of American ships, so for example, to give you an idea, not too long ago, Hillary Clinton went to South Korea after the North Koreans had, a North Korean submarine had sunk a South Korean boat, and said we’re here, the United States is behind you, we’re going to defend you. While she was in South Korea, the Obama administration announced that they were cutting seven cruisers and two marine amphibious ships from the U.S. Navy. What kind of message does that send, number one, undercutting Secretary Clinton? But what kind of message does that send to the North Koreans and the Chinese about how committed we are to the region?

HH: Sure. Hang around, and they’ll be gone.

– – – –

HH: Robert C. O’Brien, three weeks ago, I had Rajiv Chandrasekaran on for the entire show, wrote this wonderful book, Little America: The War Within The War In Afghanistan, a chronicle of eleven years of mismanagement of the war. No lack of heroism, no lack of courage, no lack of willingness, but a lot of lack of strategic vision vis-à-vis Afghanistan. What is Governor Romney’s view on what will happen next in Afghanistan?

RO: Well, this is an area that the Governor has thought about extensively. I happened to have the opportunity to travel with him in Afghanistan a year ago January. The Governor has been down there a couple of times, once when he was governor to visit the Guard troops from Massachusetts, and then was down again last year. He spoke about this yesterday. The American people want to know why our young men and women are being tragically killed in this blue on green violence, and it’s now being called insider killing. They want to know why we’re in Afghanistan. They want to know how we’re going to win in Afghanistan. It’s not just enough to talk about when we get out. How do we win? Or how do we advance American interests there? It’s stunning that we have a President who’s been a war president for the past three and a half years, and who is not out regularly telling the American people why we’re in Afghanistan, why it’s important to us, what our strategy is, and rallying support for our young men and women in uniform who are fighting there. So I think the first thing Governor Romney will do is convey to folks, the American people, as president, what his vision is for Afghanistan. Number two, you know, we’ve had, I wrote a piece several years ago, in which I applauded the President for the surge into Afghanistan. I thought it was the right decision. Immediately upon making that decision to surge forces into Afghanistan, and at that time, it was General McChrystal who was running things there, he came out and said but we’re leaving on a date certain. This was a time when the Taliban was demoralized, when we were winning, when they didn’t think that the U.S. was going to pull out. And we immediately undercut the value of the surge by the President announcing the date certain for our withdrawal. So the Taliban went back into their caves. They have a saying. You’ve got the watch in Afghanistan, you’ve got the watches, but we’ve got the time. They looked at their watches, looked at their calendars, and said well, we’ll just check off days until the Americans leave. That was a monumental mistake. And then third, look, we have to win in Afghanistan. We have to leave an Afghanistan that can defend itself against Iran and Iranian agents, against the militants, the Haqqani Network and other militants, Pakistani Taliban, against their own Taliban, and keep Afghanistan as a functioning nation that is not a harbor or a state sponsor of terrorism as it was prior to 9/11.

HH: Now President Obama’s team has been beating up on Hamid Karzai since they walked in the door. They’ve been ambivalent, as recorded by this Washington Post reporter, Chandrasekaran, about the drug trade. One day they’re against it, one day they don’t care. They don’t really know what their policy is. What’s the Romney view on nation building and on democracy as part of that effort?

RO: Well look, the number one view is that we do have to insist on a base level of human rights in Afghanistan. I had the privilege of serving in both the Bush administration, and I was carried over for two years in the Obama administration, co-chairing a rule of law program in Afghanistan. And one of the things that I’ve seen on my visits to Afghanistan, and in a meeting with Afghans, is that there are many courageous Afghans, especially Afghan women, who are desperate for the rule of law in their country. And we need to support them, we need to support the rule of law, we need to support human rights for women. And the more women that we get involved in the government in Afghanistan, the less corruption there will be, and the better future there will be for the Afghan people. So we need to be totally committed to that effort. What buys the space for us to do those programs is our young men and women on the front lines of freedom who are fighting, so we’ve got to do everything we can to support them. This administration has not listened to the generals. The generals have had timelines. This administration has ignored them. The generals have given advice. That advice has been ignored. Look, no one wants to be in Afghanistan permanently. The generals don’t want to, our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who are fighting there don’t want to. They want to come home. But we need to do it in a fashion that allows us to leave an Afghanistan that has a modicum of democracy, that has basic human rights, and again, that won’t become a breeding ground for terrorism, because the last time it was a breeding ground for terrorism, we ended up with 9/11. We can’t have that happen again.

– – – –

HH: It will be debated, interestingly enough, I believe it’s the last debate on the presidential debate circuit will be about foreign policy. By then, most people’s minds will be made up. But my guest in studio, Robert C. O’Brien, senior Mitt Romney foreign policy advisor, managing partner of the Arent Fox law firm in Los Angeles, formerly first alternate delegate to the U.N. under Ambassador Bolton, a great conservative, a great lawyer. Let’s go to the Middle East. I thought that Mitt Romney’s trip to Israel was very successful, but Syria continues to spiral down, and Egypt continues to go sideways, if not spiraling down. What’s your assessment? What do you expect out of Mitt Romney in the Middle East?

RO: Well number one, the Middle East is really craving American leadership. I mean, we’ve had a president during some very historic times in the Middle East that has had a philosophy of leading from behind, and it hasn’t worked out well. What you’re going to have in the Middle East is clarity of policy. That’s something the Governor talks about. And you’re going to have American leadership. And let me give you a couple of examples. You take a look at what’s happening in Syria now, where literally, every day, hundreds if not thousands of people are being slaughtered by artillery and indiscriminate air raids and bombings. And there is no leadership. Almost a year ago, the Governor came out and said we have to supply the opposition. We have to…Assad is a tyrant. He is a human rights violator. He’s now confessed to having weapons of mass destruction, which you’ll recall was a big debate, does Syria have them? Now, Syria has said they’ve got them. And President Obama came out yesterday and said well, if you move those, that’ll be a red line. But keep in mind that too long ago, if you’d said that Syria had weapons of mass destruction, then you were just a neocon.

HH: You were redlined into crazy.

RO: Absolutely. Now they’ve admitted it. And we’ve got a situation that they’re Iran’s biggest ally, they’re the conduit through which Iran sends money and weapons to Hezbollah and influences Lebanon, helps to destabilize and undermine Lebanese democracy. So Syria is a lynchpin for Iran. We have a chance to take out a tyrant, and take out Iran’s closest ally in the region. And instead, we’re not even leading from behind. We’re offering some radios to these folks. Well, they’ve got cell phones. They don’t need walkie-talkies. What they need is American assistance, training, and weapons.

HH: What will be Mitt Romney’s policy towards Israel, especially in light of the Iranian nuclear challenge?

RO: One of the things that’s been disappointing over the past several years is the way that American allies have been treated. We have, America has some allies that are just so close to us, and culturally, and when I say that, not in terms of democratic values, in terms of commitment to human rights, in terms of being liberal democracies…

HH: Free and fair elections.

RO: Free and fair elections, rule of law in the courts, treating their people well. Israel is such a close ally, and there are so many Americans who live in Israel, or Americans that have immigrated here from Israel, and we have not treated Israel with respect. I mean, to shunt the prime minister of Israel out a side door of the White House, to go to the U.N. and give a speech on the Middle East, and tell the world what Israel’s negotiating position should be, in that same speech, not to condemn the terrorism that the Israeli people have lived under for the past, you know, since their foundation, but especially over the past decade with the suicide bombers and the bus bombers. I mean, it’s really shabby treatment. But it’s not unique just to Israel. I mean, it’s happened to the U.K. with the Churchill bust being returned to the ambassador, and then of course, recently, there was a kerfuffle in which they claimed that they hadn’t returned the bust, but then in fact, they had returned the bust. But talking about the U.K. with respect to the Falkland Islands as being neutral, not supporting our ally there, but more importantly, not supporting the people who live on the Falklands who want to be able to elect their own leaders, and who want to be able to determine their own future. So we haven’t treated our allies well. The Czech Republic, Poland had the missile defense sites, the rug pulled out from under them in an effort which was totally failed and misguided to reset our relations with Russia. So across the board, we haven’t treated our allies well. But Israel is certainly at the top of that list.

HH: Now you mentioned the Falklands, which takes us down to South America, and I’m glad you did. We’ve got about two minutes here, so of course, we can do the entire continent. Venezuela is run by a dictator, Cuba is still run by a dictatorial family. Does Romney have an express position on how we’re going to be handling Chavez and the Castro brothers?

RO: Well, absolutely. And the position is the same going back to the Reagan years. It’s to promote democracy in Latin America, especially in Central and South America. One of the great things we’ve seen in the past twenty years is the flowering of democracy in South America and Central America. You remember when you were in the Reagan administration, I mean, many of these countries were run by military dictatorships, or they were communist dictatorships in Nicaragua and Cuba. Unfortunately, now with Chavez and his petro dollars, he’s trying to take the continent back to a very dark time, a time in which you had caudillos and strongmen, and unfortunately, animated by an anti-American socialist philosophy.

HH: You’ve got Ecuador giving Assange asylum in England, you’ve got Bolivia’s gone left and sideways. How serious a situation is it down there?

RO: Well, it’s getting even more serious. You’ve got Ortega in Nicaragua…

HH: Right.

RO: …and who’s undermined the democratic process there. And now you have in El Salvador a challenge to a democracy there. The president, who’s limited in the number of terms he can run, and the supreme court has ruled against him, and he’s trying to undermine the rule of law in El Salvador to stay in office with the support of Hugo Chavez. And so there is a rolling back of one of the great accomplishments in American foreign policy, and one of the wonderful developments that’s taken place in the world, and that is the rolling back of democracy and freedom, and the rule of law in Central and South America. That’s something we have to pay attention to, and we have to stop it.

– – – –

HH: A special thanks to my guest this hour, Robert C. O’Brien, former first alternate delegate to the United Nations. Ambassador O’Brien is presently the managing partner of the Arent Fox law firm in Los Angeles, and a senior member of the Mitt Romney foreign policy team. You know, I’ve interviewed Governor Romney dozens of times, and unlike anyone else since Ronald Reagan, he gets a flash in his eyes when he talks about Russia, thinks is a very bad place run by very sketchy people. But what can we do, Robert C. O’Brien?

RO: Well, the first thing we can do is stand up for American values and principles. So you saw when President Obama came into office, he had this idea of “resetting” relations with Russia. And the first thing he did, he gave the Russians their number one foreign policy goal. And that foreign policy goal was to remove the missile defense sites from the Czech Republic and Poland. He gave them that without getting anything in return, assuming that the Russians would change their stripes and become responsible partners. That didn’t happen. What we received in return was when we went to the U.N. to seek sanctions against Iran, to stop them from building a nuclear weapon, which is the biggest foreign policy threat we face or the world faces today, Russia vetoed those strong sanction measures. When we went to the U.N. to attempt to get some relief for the Syrian people who are being slaughtered by their own dictator, Russia, together with China, has vetoed every attempt to bring even modest sanctions against Syria. So we’ve received almost nothing, or little or nothing in response to giving them their number one foreign policy goal. Then Putin gets elected, in an election that the Europeans and you know, human rights organizations all claimed was corrupt, and what happened? President Obama called him immediately to congratulate him, an election we know was tainted. And yet he received a congratulatory call from the president of the United States. Now what does that tell Vladimir Putin? That tells him I’ve got a free hand to do what I want. So the other day, former chess champion and human rights advocate Kasparov is protesting outside of a court hearing. He gets beaten up and dragged out by the police and arrested for no reason. He’s later let go and told don’t do it again. There’s a punk band that does a protest song against Putin. They get thrown, these young women get thrown in jail for two years for being enemies of the state, and for their resistance. So look, we have to stand up to Russia the way Ronald Reagan did, the way George H.W. Bush did. We have to let them know that America, it’s peace through strength, and that we expect them to behave according to international norms.

HH: Future question, we’re out of time, whether or not Mitt Romney will go to the Winter Games in two years, in eighteen months. It’s an interesting question, but another time, Robert C. O’Brien. Thank you so much for coming to the studio and talking foreign policy. I look forward to continuing this conversation through the next 77 days. 77 days…

RO: Thank you having me, Hugh.

HH: Terrific to have you here. 77 days, that’s all it is, America. If you think we need a real foreign policy, go to

End of interview.


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